Riggio Sells More B&N Shares
Barnes & Noble founder and chairman Len Riggio announced this morning that he had sold 3.7M shares of B&N stock, worth about $64M ($17.30 per share). The sale drops Riggio’s stake in the company to about 20%, though he remains B&N’s largest shareholder. He also sold off about 2M shares in December, which had cut his stake from 29.8% to 26.3%. B&N said the sale of shares is part of Riggio’s long-term financial and estate planning and that he has no plans to sell more shares in the calendar year. In a statement, Riggio said: “After this sale, I remain the company’s largest shareholder, a position I feel very good about. I love this company and I believe in its future, as I do in all of the wonderful people who work here.” PW writes that the sale decreases the chances that Riggio might mount an effort to take B&N’’s stores private–a move that had been speculated about and gained some momentum earlier this month, when Liberty Media sold most of its holdings in B&N. Liberty gave B&N a lifeline in 2011 when it bought 12M B&N shares at $17 apiece. B&N’s stock had been up 24% this year. But shares were down nearly 9% to $16.97 by late morning. In an interview with WSJ, Riggio said that he continues to have confidence in B&N, pointing to its better-than-expected performance during the Christmas quarter. As for the signal his sale sends, he said: “I think it tells people I’m 73 years old. I understand there could be questions. What am I going to do with the money? That’s my business. The timing for an executive [selling shares] is never good.” He added that he intends to be a “big [B&N] owner for a long time” and doesn’t plan to sell more this year. However, he said, “I can’t go beyond that. I can’t limit my options.” Riggio said he lost money on this latest sale, as he had paid about $25 a share for the stock. He also lost about $40M on the December shares sale. Before that, he last sold B&N shares in 2001. Maxim Group analyst John Tinker, who has been bullish on B&N in recent months, described the sale as “obviously negative,” adding that “it’s an insider selling, and it’s his second sale. That’s always a cause for concern.” Tinker said there is not significant institutional support for B&N’s shares these days, which he said puts “more pressure on the company to get something done.” Wall Street, he added, would like B&N to separate the Nook digital business and the college bookstores from its consumer stores. “This brings a greater sense of urgency,” he said.
AP (Crain’s NY)
The magazine’s May cover features Eva Shockey, co-star of the Outdoor Channel’s “Jim Shockey’s Hunting Adventures.” She is the first solo female to appear on the cover since 1976, and only the second in the magazine’s 119-year history. The first was Queen Elizabeth, shown with her hunting dogs (January 1976 issue).
Willdorf Promoted to Chief Editor of All You
Nina Willdorf has been promoted from executive editor to editor-in-chief of All You magazine. She will continue to report to Time Inc. group editor Clare McHugh.
Hearst Ditched ‘R&D Labs,’ Opened Up Its Data Instead
Instead of one R&D group, Hearst Corp. CTO Philip Wiser decided to decentralize his company’s experiments with new tech. He opened up Hearst’s data to a select pool of developer partners–many of which have already surprised him with new ways of viewing magazine content. Last year, Hearst partnered with Hachette Filipacchi Media’s Elle to create the first magazine optimized for Google Glass. Hearst also has been experimenting with colleges. Recently, a Parsons student presented an image-based navigation tool that’s now in serious development at Hearst. “It will let users look at all the images across Hearst Magazines and let them browse using a mediated trail to find content of interest,” which “works really well on mobile devices,” Wiser says. Hearst is now in the process of creating an even more public API. Open APIs at companies including Twitter and Google “are enabling the community of developers to move very quickly–that is the hacker mentality and that’s what we’re going for,” he says.
Event Promotes Men’s Health’s ‘Ultimate Guy’ Contest
Men’s Health, in partnership with Kenneth Cole and Macy’s, promoted its search for the “Ultimate Men’s Health Guy” on April 12 with a bicoastal event at Macy’s Herald Square in New York and Macy’s Sherman Oaks in L.A. The contest, which promotes the launch of Cole’s new men’s fragrance Mankind, was launched in the April issue of MH with an open call for entries. The search has yielded more than 500 entrants that have racked up more than 45,000 votes since the contest began. The winner, chosen by readers and a judging panel, will be featured on the cover of MH’s November issue. It will be the first time in MH’s 25-year history that a reader will grace the cover. A five-city tour will also hit three other Macy’s locations in the next two months.
Native, Programmatic, Mobile Driving Forbes Growth, Says CRO
Forbes Media, which has been exploring a sale, reports that digital accounted for 57% of total ad revenue by the end of 2013, and it’s inched toward 60% in Q1. Chief revenue officer Mark Howard also reports that BrandVoice’s native advertisers accounted for 20% of Forbes’ total ad revenue in 2013, with that expected to grow to 30% this year. BrandVoice participants doubled from 15 in 2012 to 31 last year, and published approx. 1,700 posts, generatng 11M+ pageviews. Forbes is also seeing growth in programmatic: Those sales now represent approx. 30% of its digital ad revenue. Forbes’ approach to programmatic has been unconventional for a premium publisher, with no blacklists, whitelists or price floors. All website inventory not tied to a sponsorship can be bid on in an open exchange. “We don’t sell remnant inventory,” Howard said. “If someone sees a piece of inventory on an open auction that they’re interested in and are willing to pay a price that will beat the competition–including our own sales team–then they can have that. Forbes also plans to roll out a new suite of mobile ad products over the next several months that take advantage of what Howard calls “the natural breaks” in the content displayed on mobile devices.
New Kantar Media Hub Focuses on ‘Premium’ Programmatic
WPP’s Kantar Media announced its foray into programmatic through several partnerships that will allow publishers to display their available programmatic advertising inventory through Kantar’s SRDS.com media planning platform. The SRDS database is accessed via subscription. The company’s supply-side partners include Rubicon Project, PubMatic, OpenX, iSocket, Adslot, BuySellAds and Shiny Ads. Publishers that have a direct relationship with any of those companies can showcase their inventory in SRDS. The partnerships feature a mix of companies that specialize in real-time bidding (RTB) and “programmatic direct.” Through these, Kantar will exhibit inventory that’s up for sale within private marketplaces or though programmatic direct means. Kantar says its focus is on keeping planners informed of available “premium” inventory.
Library Journal Assesses Magazines, Picks 2013′s Best
Article cites mostly 2012 advertising and circ data, plus recent launches data, to point out magazines’ continuing strengths as a medium. Author also picks “best” print magazines of 2013, starting with Allrecipes.
Reddit Boosts News Capabilities
Reddit, majority-owned by Condé Nast parent Advanced Publications, last month rolled out a new feature that lets users of the site post live updates, allowing them to report in real time. The live updates allow selected users, dubbed “reporters” by Reddit, to instantly stream unlimited posts during the course of an event without having to refresh the page. The capability is still in testing mode.
OTHER NEWS OF NOTE:
Lidl Confirms U.S. Expansion, With Delays
Klaus Gehrig, CEO of Lidl parent Schwarz Group, told a German newspaper that U.S. expansion of the discount grocery chain is “in full swing,” with 2018 as the target date for stores. Analysts in Europe had anticipated Lidl could begin opening stores in the U.S. as early as 2015. Reports did not indicate reasons for the apparent postponement. Lidl has established a U.S. office in Arlington, Va., headed by executives from its division in Ireland, who are tasked with a feasibility study. Klaus said that Schwarz’s sales for the fiscal year ended Feb. 28 grew by 10% to about $98B U.S.
Kroger Ramps Up Large-Format Expansion
Kroger, which is opening its latest Marketplace store in Florence, Cincinnati today, has added 15 of the large-format stores since last summer and is in the midst of building 17 more. It now has 90 Marketplaces in 14 states, including 13 others in greater Cincinnati. Its largest-ever store is planned for Oakley, to open early next year. But as Kroger ramps up the concept, it’s finding resistance from some communities objecting to sprawling stores, in criticism normally aimed at Wal-Mart. As of 2013, Kroger’s average store was 61K sq. feet–up from 53K in 2000, 42K in 1980 and 12.5K in 1960. Analysts say that too many large stores can eventually turn off customers and note that Wal-Mart is now focusing its U.S. growth strategy on smaller-format Neighborhood Markets. Still, experts say that Kroger has a lot more room to grow its bigger stores, and the retailer is putting its own mark on the concept. Piece provides more background on the factors behind larger vs. smaller strategies.
Harris Teeter Intros Annual Fee for Online Shopping
HT has launched a new option as part of its Express Lane Online Shopping program–an annual fee rather than a monthly or per-order payment. For $99.95 a year, shoppers can place as many orders as they like, rather than opting to pay $4.95 per order or $16.95 per month. HT launched the online shopping program in 2000 and earlier this week introduced it at its 150th location–a new store in Baltimore.
Schnucks Closing Raises Concerns
The announcement on Monday that Schnucks Markets will close a North St. Louis store on May 10 has sparked criticism from city officials and residents. Schnucks said it’s not renewing its lease on the building located on North Grand because it “has consistently operated in the red since it was purchased as a part of the 1995 national acquisitions,” and that all 65 store employees will be assigned to other Schnucks stores. But the building’s owner said it believes the store is profitable, and that it had offered to do $100K in roof repairs. An alderman who represents the area said the store closing will be “really hurtful to that community,” which has one of the highest margins of food stamps users in St. Louis.
Stew Leonard’s’ Success Formula
Staying up on trends and focusing on fresh, local foods have been key in driving the Stew Leonard’s grocery chain’s sales to nearly $400M annually, says its CEO/president.
Hershey Is #1 Seasonal Candy Advertiser
Hershey Co. has the largest share of the retail ad support for seasonal candy, with 32.4%, and the Hershey’s bar has the largest share of retail ad support of any brand, with 18.6%, per ECRM Analytics data. On the manufacturing side, Hershey is followed by Mars Chocolate N.A. (19.1% of the retail ad support), Nestle S.A. (8.7%), and Russell Stover (6.8%). On the brand side, Hershey’s is followed by M&M’S (8.5% retail share of the ad support), Russell Stover (4.8%) and M&M Mars (4.7%). More ads support packaged chocolate candy (29.4%) than any other candy type. That’s followed by packaged-non chocolate candy (20.4%) and premium candy (10.2%). Among retailers, CVS ran the most circular ads, followed by Rite Aid, Longs Drug (Hawaii) and Walgreens. The data are from the 52 weeks ending Feb. 1. Article provides more detail in charts.
General Mills: Trade Your Legal Rights for Coupons
General Mills has quietly added language to its website to alert consumers that they give up their right to sue the company if they download coupons, “join” it in online communities like Facebook, enter a company-sponsored sweeps or contest or interact with it in a variety of other ways. Anyone who has received anything that could be construed as a benefit and who then has a dispute with the company over its products will have to use informal negotiation via email or go through arbitration to seek relief, according to the new terms on the site. In language added on Tuesday after the NYT contacted it about the changes, General Mills seemed to go even further, suggesting that buying its products would bind consumers to those terms. The change in legal terms, which occurred shortly after a judge refused to dismiss a case brought against the company by consumers in California, made General Mills one of the first, if not the first, major food companies to seek to impose what legal experts call “forced arbitration” on consumers. “Although this is the first case I’ve seen of a food company moving in this direction, others will follow–why wouldn’t you?,” said Julia Duncan, director of federal programs and an arbitration expert at the American Association for Justice, a trade group representing plaintiff trial lawyers. “It’s essentially trying to protect the company from all accountability, even when it lies, or say, an employee deliberately adds broken glass to a product.” A growing number of companies have adopted similar policies over the years, especially after a 2011 Supreme Court decision, AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion, that paved the way for businesses to bar consumers claiming fraud from joining together in a single arbitration. But “When you’re talking about food, you’re also talking about things that can kill people,” said Scott L. Nelson, a lawyer at Public Citizen, a nonprofit advocacy group. “There is a huge difference in the stakes between the benefit you’re getting from this supposed contract you’re entering into by, say, using the company’s website to download a coupon, and the rights they’re saying you’re giving up. That makes this agreement a lot broader than others out there.” Big food companies are concerned about the growing number of consumers filing class-action suits against them over labeling, ingredients and claims of health threats. Last year, General Mills paid $8.5M to settle lawsuits over positive health claims made on the packaging of its Yoplait Yoplus yogurt.
OTHER NEWS OF NOTE: